Just Recently Fanny and I went to Hong Kong for a little weekend fun and to meet our friend David Gilbert for dinner. It seems like every time we go to HK its a rushed thing and we never really get to see much of whats there. Hong Kong is a fascinating place full of unique culture and history well worth spending time to explore.
This time around we decided to try something fun and a bit silly. They have these double decker busses all over as part of Hong Kong’s excellent mass transit system with some being run by tourism companies specifically to tour the city. There are a number to choose from a quick internet search will find 5 or 6 excellent choices. The first we considered was The Big Bus followed up by the Rickshaw Sight Seeing Bus both of which offer various routes around the city with an open top viewing platform. We decided on the non plan plan technique and didn’t make reservations figuring we can decide while on the spot. I looked at the map and saw we can pick up the bus along the popular Avenue of the Stars a similar thing to the Hollywood Stars Walk of Fame in America. Its a very popular with tourist and plenty of locals as its right on the water and at night there is a great view of the huge downtown buildings all lit up at night. This a cool pic I fond on Wikimedia since the 2 times I have seen it my camera has been out of battery.
We took the bus from Shenzhen that drops us off in Kowloon its cheaper then the limo service and since we aren’t carrying any luggage figured why not? Walking towards the waterfront we spotted a whole bunch of these boy scouts and their leaders, I am not certain but I think they are known as Queens scouts over here.
Walking towards the waterfront we see some of the great Banyan tree’s lining streets here, recently I saw on the news where a number of them are so old they are in danger of falling and a few have with injuries to pedestrians . I hope the HK Goverment figures out how to solve this issue without removing them as they are really beautiful to me and remind me of the live oaks we have at home ” only smaller “…
You see cleaning people everywhere both on Mainland China and in Hong Kong. Both men and women usually older folks they work very hard clearing the refuse from the streets. They seem to be much more successful at this in Hong Kong then on the mainland for some reason. I just liked her hat she seems to have solved both her sun block and rainy day issues.
As we find our way to the Avenue of Stars I am struck by something I really like about HK as opposed to China. This is a truly international place with people from all corners of the world, the closest thing to it in my experience is New York City. As a mixed couple Fanny and I are constantly under scrutiny in Shenzhen here very few even bat an eye.
Don’t know what this is about but have seen quite a few examples of it, possibly related to the land reclamation Hong Kong is doing to help alleviate their space needs or maybe even the maintenance of Victoria Harbor.
After grabbing some Starbucks coffee at the end of the avenue we find a stand with brochures for the Big Bus, but not a place to buy tickets. I am also struck by something I missed during my online search. What I assumed was a price for the all day pass of 50 HK dollars was actually in US dollars. Now truth is thats not a terrible price for a fun activity but when the Rickshaw Bus offers almost the exact same service for 50 HK dollars the choice seems clear.I imagine the price difference is due to the marketing efforts Big Bus has done, nice website, great map showing the routes etc. I don’t like being taken advantage of and at 6 time the cost I cant help but feel its just that.The Rickshaw bus however is across the harbor so its a ferry ride for us. The ferry’s run constantly back and forth from Kowloon which is still on the mainland even though it is part of Hong Kong. Just recently there was a terrible accident involving a ferry with 29 deaths. This was on the ferry to Lamma Island which is about 2 miles away from HK. Considering the huge traffic here, Hong Kong has a good safety record and I am sure all the personnel here are now on high alert for safety.
I am pretty sure these are the same ferry’s we used when I was here in 1990 with the USN, strange to think that now 22 years later I am living here almost half the year.
As you can see the harbor is very busy, ships boats and barges going every which way…
We survive our journey and now find ourselves on Hong Kong Island herself.
Almost right outside the ferry exit we find our target. The Rickshaw bus will take you on 2 routes around the island. One Route is called the Historical and the other the Metro since that all pick up right here it makes it easy to try both.With our ticket you can ride the bus all day and get off and on wherever it stops along the 2 routes, not bad for around $7 US . Here you can see My lovely wife expressing her joy at our luck in finding this giant purple bus thing. I especially enjoy the themeing of our coach with its ” retractable ” top reminiscent of the rickshaws which used to be an important part of Hong Kong life.
Just some hooligan. The bus is comfortable and clean, not luxurious out here but after all this is exposed to the elements. The interior seating seemed very nice though…
The strongest impression I always get of Hong Kong is the density. From up here its a very different experience to the street level, down there its so crowded and busy you get the forest and the trees syndrome. Its hard to capture this in a still image maybe an illustration would do it?
As we start off we pass the Apple Store at the IFC mall. It’s pretty obvious that Apple is huge here, from what I am told, this is mostly due to mainland Chinese tourist coming here to spend their new found wealth.
Another icon of Hong Kong for me is the bamboo scaffolding. It may seem strange to western eyes but when you consider the rapid growth, incredible strength and flexibility of this stuff it just makes sense. can you say Green Initiative?
Our bus is a tour and it stops at specific places with historical or cultural signifigance. I took this picture at one of these stops which was supposed to be showing us a really old important building known for its bright blue color. Hmmm… do you see it?
Oh, there it is… across the street and down a side alley
I enjoy the bright colors you find here, it actually reminds me of the creole style houses in New Orleans.
The real ” Ancient Chinese Secret ”
The streets are very crowded and hectic, this guy is directing the small silver van you can just see it there in front of the toyota and between the two work trucks eventually he got it right where he is standing…
Hong Kong is under frantic construction its everywhere you look either renovation of old buildings or like this construction of gigantic housing units.
I get the feeling this shirt has been there awhile…
A neat view of one of the many street markets all over Hong Kong you can find just about anything for sale in these ” Traditional Markets ” Hong Kong, Taiwan and even Shenzhen all have in common an extreme Convenience factor. Because of the way the cities are laid out and due to high pedestrian traffic and little intrusion by large corporate chain stores basically all your daily needs can be served within walking distance of your home at small shops and stalls. Compare this to a typical US city where every thing is spread out over literally miles of territory.
Its very nice change I have to say the only downside I can see to it will be if you need to purchase something large or possibly rare, then you may not find it so easy. However there is also a very healthy amount of delivery service available so maybe its not even an issue then.
Another iconic detail of Hong Kong would have to be the great signs hanging out into the street. At night they add a festive air to the city and during the day they feel somewhat mysterious almost organic to me. I remember seeing something about the Government putting a limit on how many new signs can be added, I suppose there is some logic to this but for me I hope they don’t take them away.
As you can see below the bus is right underneath the level of these signs during our trip its quite exciting to see them whizzing by quite easily within reach of an outstretched hand. Another stark contrast to the more litigious minded USA. I guess here is Asia you need to keep your common sense about you and not expect the things to be made ” safe ” for you…
Seriously the hand you see outstretched here is of a seated woman, a tall man would certainly have quite a bad experience if he stood up right now…
They build them really tall and somewhat narrow here due to the limitations of space. Imagine how fun it must be to weather out a strong typhoon in one of those penthouses…
Don’t know what the line is for but just wanted to point out the diversity in the crowd Hong Kong has long been a place where different cultures meet and honestly for me its a nice break from the mainland.
This memorial is for all the local Hong Kong men ” and presumably women ” who served in the armed forces of great Britain during their long term stewardship of the island
David ” who is English ” has told us that there is an effort underway to rename a lot of the British named streets and areas with more traditional Chinese designations. Again I hope they think twice about this whether or not Britain was correct in occupying Hong Kong it is a fact that they did and to erase the evidence will strip something unique from this place.
Hong Kong Biker dude. You don’t see many real motorcycles over on the mainland for good reason and I am not sure I would feel comfortable with it here but its nice to see anyway.
These trolleys are all over as well. From what I know you can use the bus, trolley and metro all with whats called an octopus card, you load it with a certain amount of money and as you enter and exit mass transit the amount you have used is deducted. If you do run out of money its not a problem they don’t try and stop you its just up to you to replenish it before your next use.
In Taiwan they have a similar system and I know you can replenish your card at many places including the 7 / 11 stores, not sure if this is true in Hong Kong. For the taxi you will need cash and they are more expensive here then either China or Taiwan.
Another example of that element of danger thing. I was touching this while we waited for the light to change. Its nice to be in a place where people are expected to take some personal responsibility for their own actions. This can be taken to far as well, on the mainland its literally up to you to watch out because no one else is going to…
To me there is an almost surreal aspect to the bus ride experience maybe its the artist in me but I feel like this picture looks very much like a rendering of a themed ride something I might do for work…
Did I mention these buildings are really tall?
Here is a great map I got off the Big Bus website it was actually quite helpful to me in figuring out where things are in the city.
Next time I intend to go ahead and try out the Big bus and see if there is something in there worth the extra money.
Thats it for now, I have been meaning to try and catch up on my posting. I have been really busy recently so can’t complain but I would like to document some more of what I have seen here especially as fanny and I will be heading back to the States soon for a period of time to be determined.